Jeff Carter, Mike Richards

Flyers blockbusters: Trade Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles

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Back in 2003 at the NHL Draft, Philadelphia was able to select forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, a pair of guys the Flyers felt they could build around for the future and win the Stanley Cup with. Now, just a day before the 2011 NHL Draft in Minnesota, both of them on their way out of town in separate trades.

Thursday afternoon’s madness began with the Flyers sending Carter to Columbus for restricted free agent forward Jakub Voracek and first and third round picks in the draft. Voracek has been slowly emerging as a power forward force in Columbus and while playing alongside Rick Nash he’s become a better player. Carter has been a perennial 30-40 goal scoring center and now he’ll line up with Nash in Columbus. The Blue Jackets and GM Scott Howson have been talking about making a big splash this summer one way or another and acquiring Carter does just that.

The other stunning deal sees Flyers captain Mike Richards off to Los Angeles in exchange for Wayne Simmonds and highly touted prospect centerman Brayden Schenn. Richards will give L.A. a definitive second line center behind Anze Kopitar and a guy that provides a ton of snarl to the lineup. The Flyers getting Simmonds and Schenn gives them another young center to join Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere in Philadelphia and now an instant chance to make a splash in the NHL after Kings GM Dean Lombardi wouldn’t give him the green light last year.

The Flyers clearing out both Richards and Carter will now clear the way to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to whatever contract he might want now. The rumored deal that Bryzgalov was looking for was a seven-year, $50 million deal with a cap hit of just over $7 million a year. With Carter and Richards both out, the Flyers have moved out 20 years worth of contract commitments to those two worth $102 million. Richards’ deal was a 12-year deal worth $69 million, good for a $5.75 million cap hit while Carter’s was a 11-year $58 million deal with a cap hit of just over $5.2 million.

(Update: Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov to nine-year $51 million deal)

With over $10 million gone from the cap, the Flyers now have $51 million committed to next season’s cap and with a salary cap of around $64 million set for next season that’s more than enough space to get Bryzgalov and Voracek signed as well as having flexibility to add elsewhere. It’s an unreal more for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to free up this kind of cap space and a gutsy one as well as both Carter and Richards were beloved in Philly as well as being their top two centers. Now that role shifts to Giroux to lead the way up the middle.

For the Kings they’ve got their second center in Richards and with a potential trade of Ryan Smyth elsewhere, they’ll have to be a bit more active in the free agent market this summer to help give the team some depth. Giving up Schenn is a move that will keep eyes on the Kings and on Schenn’s progress in his career.

Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

… Well:

“Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

Fantastic.

Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

***

Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.

Bruins’ Vatrano to miss three months with foot injury

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano is supposed to be one of the young players the Boston Bruins will be counting on this season to help replace some of the offense they lost when Loui Eriksson signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.

The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.

General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.

Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.

Star-crossed: Cody Eakin to miss about six weeks

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 02: Cody Eakin #20 of the Dallas Stars waits for the face off against the New Jersey Devils on January 2,2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars’ run of injuries hasn’t ended even with the World Cup of Hockey winding down.

Training camps are starting up, so that’s a new way that the team can encounter bad luck, and it didn’t take much time for the hits to keep coming. Cody Eakin suffered a lower-body injury that’s apparently bad enough to sideline him for six weeks, according to the team.

That same announcement revealed that Devin Shore will miss “some time.”

Before that bad Eakin news leaked through, head coach Lindy Ruff tried to spin the injuries as positively as possible, as the Dallas Morning News noted.

“We’ve got a little bit of the injury bug hitting us, but you’ve got to get through it,” Ruff said. “I’d rather have it now than three or four weeks from now.”

In case you’re wondering, Ruff didn’t pass around bubble wrap to everyone in the Stars’ locker room after making that statement.

Eakin has only missed four games over the last four seasons, so this injury bug is becoming quite the epidemic for the Stars.

Related: Stars might be the biggest losers of the World Cup